The Most Effective Way to Peer-Pressure Your Friends into Voting
Some tried-and-true strategies for getting your people to the polls
Voter turnout has never been a strong suit in the United States. Just slightly over half of all eligible adults voted in the 2016 presidential election, which, according to the Pew Research Center, put the country toward the bottom of developed nations in a ranking of voter participation.
And when it comes to elections that don’t include a president, Americans seem even less interested. Some experts predict that next week will bring the highest midterm voter turnout in half a century — but their estimates still top out at around 45 to 50 percent. A similar surge is expected for voters between ages 18 and 29 (historically, the least likely age group to vote), 40 percent of whom are expected to show up at the polls.
The numbers are an improvement over past years, but this is no ordinary midterm election. Fierce partisan battles have erupted all over the country in response to the Trump administration’s policies. For trans people, people of color, Muslims, and members of other marginalized groups, getting people to vote can feel like a matter of life or death.
While politics alone can’t bring out the reluctant nonvoters, peer pressure might get some of them to the polls. In recent years, social science researchers have identified several tried-and-true techniques to encourage voter turnout. Here’s how to try them on your friends.
Help Them Make a Plan
Ask your friend about their voting plan the next time the two of you catch up, or take in-person steps to help them plan.
In 2008, a team of Harvard psychologists ran a study in which they had pollsters call unlikely voters in the days leading up to the election. Each call followed one of several scripts, reminding the person on the other end of the line about the importance of voting, asking if they intended to vote, or inquiring about their day-of logistics. By far, the calls that were the most effective in getting people to the polls were those in that last group, which asked three specific questions: what time…